HOLY PLACES OF HEBREWS
(While the following article is my own, several ideas and researched data incorporated on this page were gleaned from Herbert Kiesler’s article in “Issues in the Book of Hebrews” Daniel and Revelation Committee Series, Volume 4 for more detailed study I would recommend obtaining this book)
Adventist interest in the language of Hebrews differs from conventional religious groups as we see Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as the grand fulfilment of the earthly sanctuary which was given as a pattern, type or shadow of things to transpire in the heavens. We believe His mediatorial work corresponded to the priestly functions in the daily, Tamid, services of the Holy Place, from His ascension till the end of the 2300 days when the Daniel 8:14 says the sanctuary would be cleansed. Since 1844, Christ, our High Priest has engaged in a second- apartment work, or Most Holy Place, to which the activities of the Old Testament Day of Atonement pointed.
Does Hebrews support the outline of Christ’s ministry which is in Daniel and Revelation? Or did He by-pass the holy place and simply present His blood before the Father, completing all His priestly work once and for all and then sit down upon His throne to wait for things to play out their course upon earth?
First, let’s look at the term TA HAGIA in Hebrews.
The word “TA HAGIA” (and its variations) occurs ten times in the book of Hebrews. Translators have translated this term to suit their own agendas and understanding with seemingly little regard to the original.
Yet it is very interesting to note that the word used is with but one exception plural — that is “holy places”. Throughout Hebrews the wording tells us that Christ is ministering in the HOLY PLACES, or holies.
Let’s just look to see how the original really reads:
HEBREWS 9:8 “The Holy Spirit is thus showing the way of the holies was not manifested while the first tabernacle was standing, which was a parable for the time present, with its gifts and sacrifices which were being offered, but which could not perfect the conscience….”
Heb. 10:19 the original reads “Having therefore, brothers, confidence for the entering of the holies by the blood of Jesus which he dedicated for us,”
The only place the adjective is applied to specify the MOST HOLY PLACE is in Hebrews 9:3.
Here a specific adjective is added to which defines the place where the ark is seen, as the
HOLIEST OF ALL. Interestingly— notice also that in this one text that specifically identifies the MOST HOLY PLACE it also speaks of the SECOND veil.
Why would the author specifically indicate in this one place THE HOLIEST OF ALL which is beyond the SECOND veil, while in every other instance using a plural “holy places” to specify where Christ was ministering?
Note again that the original Greek here says “HOLY PLACES” plural, except in the one instance in Hebrews 9:3 where it speaks of the Holiest of all —
Hebrews 9 begins by talking about the earthly sanctuary which had two parts. (vs 9:2) describes the holy place. (Here the word is holy-singular) (vs 9: 3, 4) describes the most holy place. (Holiest of all) (then the author says he wouldn’t go into detail on the these things)
He then refers to the earthly priest’s daily and yearly ministry.
The author makes the statement that while the earthly sanctuary was in operation the way into heavenly was not yet opened– It was begun when Christ entered into the Holy Places (plural) with His own precious, saving blood.
Hebrews is speaking of Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as a whole — It is only through reinterpreting and re translating that those who down the 2 phase ministry can support their theory.
In Hebrews nine it identifies the two apartments, it identifies the work of the priests in both the daily and the yearly. It then says Christ is ministering in the heavenly Holy Places (plural)
As we consider the earthly sanctuary we realize that the common people could only see the courtyard. They could not enter the sanctuary itself. Thus when the priest disappeared from their view he was entering through the first veil.
The verses of Hebrews 9, discuss all the services of the priests in their daily rounds, as well as that once a year the High Priest goes into the second apartment. The people could not see the priest in any of the work in the holy places of the sanctuary.
In the whole argument in Hebrews, although we see the powerful contrast between the better heavenly ministry as against the pattern of the earthly, there is no indication at all that the pattern is not followed or that there is no two part ministry in the holy places. In fact the plural “holy places” and the emphases of the second veil, in the only place the Most Holy is mentioned, seems to give very clear evidence that indeed Christ had a work in both places.
The interpreters have re-interpreted and rewritten Hebrews to suit their own interpretation. — The original is clear.
Let’s go back a chapter to chapter 8. Heb. 8:1-6
“How of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;”
Here we see the superior High Priest. The main point, the author says is that — Jesus is a better priest than the Levitical priesthood because He is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.
Thus He is priest/king. Many use this verse to deny Christ’s ministry, saying He simply presented His blood, declaring everything finished, and then sat down at the right hand of God. Yet this stance totally denies the rest of the book of Hebrews, as well as the prophetic books on the ministry of Jesus. He is our priest/king, after the order of Melchizedek. This compares to Psalm 110:1-7. It underlines the authority of Jesus, the status and honor ascribed to Him. The word “throne” is a symbol of authority.
Jesus is exalted and elevated to authority and rulership. It does not say He is now confined to some geological spot. It does not say He was only a priest for the first minutes that He entered heaven. No this phrase marks His authority and position. He is more than a priest, but He is still our High Priest in the heavenly Places.
“A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.”
Verse 2 expresses the fundamental that Christ is “a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent”
Again we see the TA HAGIA which literally translates the holies. It does not use the adjective of Heb. 9:3 of Holiest of all– it just says Christ is ministering in the holies, an expression which refers to the sanctuary in general.
An authority states, the phrase “a minister in the sanctuary (ton hagion leitourgos) as a fixed construction. He has no doubt that the author has the heavenly sanctuary in its totality in mind. He reasons that the existence of a heavenly high priest necessitates heavenly action as well as a heavenly sanctuary.”
The parallel word “tent” (skene) which is used to explain the “ta hagia”, clearly denotes the whole tabernacle or sanctuary. In all other references to “skene” tent, in the book of Hebrews (8:1,5;9:2,3,5,8,21; 11:9; 13:10) the meaning is clearly the sanctuary.
“For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.”
Verse 3 Christ is appointed to act on behalf of man in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.” His offering is limited to a single sacrifice — the once and for all sacrifice of the cross.
Yet, the text compares it to the earthly sanctuary offerings. The first “to offer” denotes the continual, repetitive sacrifices of the daily services of the priests. The second “to offer” indicates the once and for all time, nature of Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross, which is all sufficient for every requirement in all the phases of the heavenly priestly ministry.
“For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:”
Verse 4 If Christ were on earth He could not be a priest, He does not belong to the order of Levi, a requirement of the Mosaic Law. Jesus belonged to the tribe of Judah — (In this instance the law is changed — the law that says the priest comes from Levi — this is the law changed, not the moral law.)
Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.
Verse 5 Earthly priests served as a copy or shadow of the heavenly sanctuary.
This is a point often carelessly tossed aside. But Hebrews plainly tells us that the earthly priests served as a copy or shadow of the heavenly sanctuary.
Three main ideas come forth– They were a “copy” “shadow” and “type”. The term “hupodiegman (8:5; 9:23) means an outline or copy.
In Exodus 25:40 the heavenly original is called “tupos” (type) whereas the earthly sanctuary is called the “Antitupos” (antitype) Heb. 9:24. Here the terms are switched and it seems the author of Hebrews is making an important point.
While the earthly is but a shadowy outline of the real, we would do injustice to the argument in Hebrews to simply thrust aside the relationship between the earthly ministration of the Levitical priests and the ministry of Jesus. The earthly was constructed according to the pattern or TUPOS of the heavenly. Its purpose was to demonstrate in a typical manner deep truths concerning God’s plan of salvation.
Remember too, the “TUPOS” in Hebrews which refers to Exodus 25:40 was the great original or reality in heaven which existed before the copy and the shadow was built on earth. The earthly was built according to the pattern or “Tupos” revealed to him. Moses was shown the original and give precise instruction on how to build a model of the original. Of course the model can never compare to the grand sanctuary in heaven. Yet it still brings a finite model which can be understood by finite minds and teach the infinite things of God.
This carries over to the ceremonies — the ceremonies all pointed forward to Christ’s ministry.
The ceremonies revolved around two main events– the 1st month feasts revolving around the Passover, (Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension into the holy places) and the 7th month ceremonies (The trumpets, the Day of Atonement or judgment, in the Most Holy, and the feast of tabernacles when the harvest is gathered and people rejoice in the Promised Land)
A clear, two phased ministry —
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Yes, Christ’s ministry was forshadowed by the earthly services; they were a model for our finite minds to see in a finite way God’s dealing with sin and sinners. Yet Christ’s ministry is a far more excellent ministry. The new covenant and better covenant is built upon the sure reality of the sacrifice of the cross. The old could not save, it was only a promissory system to point people to the true heavenly system in which Christ, the great Priest/King can completely save and remove sin from the repentant sinner.